Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair?

Jason · Aug 22, 2021 04:00 PM

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 01

If you were a teenager living through the 90s and early noughties, you'd probably remember a very different Proton than the one today. One that made not SUVs, but sporty-to-drive cars like the Proton Satria GTi, and the subject of our attention today, the Proton Putra.

Now, let's not get into whether the shift in Proton's product strategy is a good or bad thing. What we want to know is that, after 25 years, is the Proton Putra still worthy of your attention as a used car purchase? Here's what you need to know abut buying a used Proton Putra.

Which Proton Putra variant is the best?

 

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 01

Launched in 1996, the Proton Putra came in a single variant. The 4G93P 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder engine (140 PS, 164 Nm) was the sole engine of choice. And yes, this is the same engine that pulls duty in the Satria GTi. 

Transmission wise, all Putras came equipped either with a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic. Yes, the Proton Putra is essentially a Mitsubishi Mirage Asti underneath, which is no bad thing. 

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 02

Mitsubishi Mirage Asti pictured

Production of the Putra was rather short-lived, getting pulled out of the showrooms in 2001. It made a brief return to the showroom floor in 2004 because Proton still had unsold units of the Putra. Be that as it may, a Proton Putra is indeed a rare sight on our roads.

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 03

The 2004 'relaunched' Putra also sported different wheel designs from the original batch (Credit: Wikipedia)

When new, the Proton Putra had a sticker price of RM 68,887 (~RM 118k in today’s money). In today's used car market, you can snap up a 1997 model year Putra for less than RM 14k. It's getting more and more difficult to find prisitine, unmodified units, but it is not impossible.

Our advice is to get a used unit from the 1996 to 2001 model years, as they come with more goodies (we'll get to that in a bit). Also, plump for the manual units as the 4-speed automatic feels every bit the relic it is in 2021.

Also read: The Proton Putra, Satria GTI and Wira 1.8 EXI - once marvels of Malaysian motoring

Why buy a Proton Putra?

 

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 04

With gold wheels, the GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX resemblance is simply uncanny

This much we will say: the Proton Putra is the car of choice for the discreet, thinking driving enthusiast. Why? Well, every other person, for the same money, would have plumped for the Proton Satria GTi. It's the more 'obvious' choice for most buyers shopping in this market segment.

The Putra however, is the more understated of the two. It draws less attention to itself but is no less capable than it's silver hot hatch sibling in delivering performance and driving thrills. For a generation of enthusiasts, this was an affordable entry point to driving thrills.

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 05

To start with, it is blessed with handsome looks in the finest coupe traditions. Long nose, short rump, the proportions of the Putra is bang on the money. Seriously, find us a bad angle on this car. The rear is reminiscent of the GC8 Subaru Impreza, which is no bad thing at all.

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 06

Satria GTi was the more 'obvious' choice compared to the Putra

Because it is so rare (it's an even rarer sight than the Satria GTi), you'd be almost certain to get appreciative glances from people in the know. Others will probably go, "Is that a 2-door Wira?"

Out of the box, the Proton Putra was a driving enthusiast's dream. Sure, the 4G93P 1.8-litre didn't have a gazillion horsepower, but it was propelling a car that weighed only 1,007 kg, meaning it had all the grunt it needed. 0-100 km/h was dusted in a respectable 8.7 seconds.

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 07

Moreover, people today still bang on about how a good-handling car should always have multi-link rear suspension. From the factory, the Proton Putra came standard with MacPherson struts in front, and a multi-link system at the rear.... in 1996 (that's 25 years ago). 

Adding to the fun-to-drive recipe is the snickety 5-speed manual transmission plus additional goodies like Recaro N-Joy seats, Momo Daytona four-spoke steering wheel and a Momo gear knob.

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 08

It is important to note that the 2004 Proton Putras didn't receive the Recaro and Momo enhancements, automatically making it less cool.

All in, the Putra was a 2-door coupe that seats four (five at a stretch), has a boot, and is practical enough to tackle the daily grind in. What's not to like?

Are Putras a pain to maintain? Common issues?

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 09

4G93P 1.8-litre first saw duty in the Proton Putra

The Proton Putra isn't exhorbitant to maintain, seeing that it is equipped with a 1.8-litre engine and is mechanically not a very complex car.

Proton Putra ownership costs
Road Tax (RM) 280
Tyre/pc (RM) 220
Tyre size 195/50
R15
10k km
Minor Service (RM)
160

Most owners would have also changed the standard 14-inch wheels by now, but for the sake of this guide, let's stick to 15-inch options as tyre choices are pretty wide for this size.

Also read: 8 reason why the Proton Putra was more than just a prince on wheels

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 10

To find out if the Proton Putra has any common issues, WapCar.my spoke to Mr Suriya Sankaran, who heads up Dream Street Restoration, experts in restoring Proton C99 models such as the Satria GTi and R3, Wira 1.8, and of course, the Putra.

Ever happy to share his insights, Suriya says that the 4G93P engine is one of the most reliable engines he's worked with. He has seen his Putra customers with engines running past 250,000 km without a hitch. The catch is, he says, is proper maintenance. 

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 11

Dream Street Restoration treating rust on a Putra's roof joints

Some of the issues he has encountered with improperly-maintained Putras include noise coming from the engine's hydraulic lifters (RM 1.2k to replace), and worn clutch pumps (a RM 150 fix).

One peculiar thing Suriya brought up about the Putra though, is the bodywork. He mentions that pre-October 2001 Putras are prone to rusting at the joints. This is due to the type of body glue that was used. This can be at the roof, doors, front hood or even the rear trunk. 

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 12

Because parts for the Putra are not the easiest to source, Suriya says it's hard to have give a price estimate on fixing this problem. However, he's more than happy to help you assess the condition of Putras you might be interested in. 

Suriya added that the 4G93P engine doesn't need fully-synthetic engine oil, preferring semi-synthetic or even mineral oil. He recommends using at least a 10W-40 viscosity for this engine. 

Conclusion

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 13

With no successor in sight, the already-rare Proton Putra will remain one of the marque's more brilliant, yet unappreciated efforts. It's safe to say the Putra did not hit the commercial heights that the Satria GTi did, even getting outsold by the Tiara (THE TIARA) at one point. 

Regardless, time has been kind to the Putra, with many now looking back at this model with fondness. It was a great entry point for a good drive back in 1996, and that remains true even today. 

If nothing else, you can boast about owning the only coupe model ever made by Proton.

Rarer than a Satria GTi, RM 13k for a 24-year-old Proton Putra, how much to repair? 14

Jason

Road Test Editor

Jason's foremost passion is all things automotive, where he spent his formative working years as a Product Planner and Trainer. An Advanced Driving Instructor by training and an all-round enthusiast, Jason loves going into intricate details about driving dynamics. Will drive anything with 4 wheels and a steering.

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